New Le Mans Peugeot 9X8: A Wing and a Prayer!

Le Mans

Peugeot Ditches Wingless Le Mans Victory Dreams With New Hypercar

Peugeot Sport has tugged the wraps off its highly revised, more conventional 9X8 Hypercar as it chases Le Mans 24 Hour success. The company had previously pinned its hopes on an oddball wingless ground effects philosophy in its 2023 9X8, but the ’24 car now ditches all that for a far more contemporary solution.

A World Endurance and Le Mans rules anomaly allows for greater ground effect downforce through larger venturi tunnels under ta car. So long as that comes in a balanced 50-50 front-rear mass distribution, and equal 10-inch front and rear tires, instead of a more conventional solution. It’s a loophole that Peugeot tried to exploit in search of extra speed.

That however ended in tears when the car struggled to compete with its more conventional rivals. While it was competitive overnight at Le Mans last year, and occasionally elsewhere, Peugeot has only managed the best of a third place since its 2022 WEC return. The team however identified that its oddball wingless solution relies too much on series Balance of Performance rules to compete up front.


Peugeot Has Fallen on its Wingless Sword

Now, as expected, the Lion has fallen on its wingless sword and rolled out its highly revised, longer and far more conventional 9X8 2024. Its resplendent in an edgy new livery, is visibly longer overall, run on 9.5 and 12-inch wide rubber and now sports a regular rear-biased weight balance. The newcomer also runs a conventional, albeit low-line wing to push the rear down.

“Our decision change the car is mainly so we rely less on the BoP, which we cannot control,” team boss Olivier Jansonnie owned up. The new 9X8 2024 is almost completely revised. “We have touched 95% of the car, but one of our main challenges was to keep the overall look, and just add on a rear wing. So it all looks quite the same, but we have achieved a substantially different aero concept.”

The new 9X8 2024 retains the monocoque and crash structures of the original. Peugeot has however revised the car’s 2.6-litre biturbo V6 and seven-speed gearbox in search of improved reliability. Teams are allowed five evo joker performance upgrades over a Le Mans Hypercar’s lifecycle. Peugeot has not revealed how many jokers it has used on the 9X8 in the 2024 upgrade.


Winged Change Comes Along With Stiffer Opposition

Peugeot returned to endurance racing with the wingless 9X8 in 2022. It indeed shone before problems at the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hour. And suffered last minute heartbreak to lose second in the Qatari 2024 season opener last month. But its wingless wonder failed to compete with champions Toyota, Le Mans winners Ferrari, Cadillac, or even the also initially troubled Porsches. Now Peugeot also faces the might of French home rivals Alpine, BMW, Lamborghini, and others in 2024.

The original Peugeot 9X8 is not alone as a Le Mans failure. Most recent among them are Mercedes’ acrobatic GTRs that so famously flew out of contention. And Nissan’s disastrous attempt reinvent the wheel with its quite useless front-wheel drive machines. Lola’s 1960 pre-run to the Ford GT40 was also a disaster. But unlike Mercedes and Nissan, they stuck it out and that car’s spawn dominated.

Now Peugeot has similarly stuck it out and come back with a new plan. Its wingless wonder may have failed, but now the French carmaker is back chasing its fourth Le Mans win and more World Endurance glory. This time it appears, on a wing and a prayer. Sometimes, that works! Roll on Le Mans, 15-16 June!